DOT chief bares bold prospects for PH tourism at Global Tourism Economy Forum

MACAO SARPhilippine Department of Tourism (PDOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco shared the Philippine government’s sustainability efforts for tourism and, at the same time, her bold prospects for the industry, before global tourism leaders attending the 10th edition of the Global Tourism Economy Forum (GTEF) in the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Friday (Sept. 22). 

“The Philippines is home to one of the longest coastlines in the world, as well as 70 to 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. We are one of the most megabiodiverse countries in the world and home to 10% of the world’s marine protected area,” Secretary Frasco said during the panel discussion among tourism ministers who are members of the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific. 

“Sustainability and tourism have been an absolute necessity and the driving force of development for our country. As early as 2009 with the passage of the law that created the Tourism Act, sustainable tourism was identified by our government as being integral to our socio-economic development, and therefore, that has been the guiding force towards the programs and plans for the development of our tourism industry,” the tourism chief added. 

With the approved National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028, she said that the approach for the country’s tourism blueprint was crafted from a sustainability standpoint incorporated under a seven-point agenda by which the DOT is currently operating at present.  

“Under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., he approved recently the National Tourism Development Plan for the Philippines that will span from 2023 to 2028, and in this plan, we have approached tourism from a sustainability standpoint in a sense that we look at it from a developmental framework, identifying seven objectives for tourism development, chief of which is infrastructure,” she said. 

She emphasized that infrastructure has also been identified as a priority, given the geological features of the Philippines as a destination composed of 7,641 islands, over 80 provinces, hundreds of cities, and over 1,400 municipalities.  

“This means that our government agencies have come together in a convergence to ensure, first of all, that we increase accessibility to our tourism destinations to the development of tourism roads,” she noted.  

Long-term development and sustainability measures for destinations

As the panel tackled sustainability strategies toward putting destination countries to the “Destination 2030” goal, Secretary Frasco said that the Philippines, under her helm as tourism chief, has taken a “long hard look at what are the essential pillars to ensure the long-term development of the destinations”.  

“We take a long hard look at what are the essential pillars to ensure the long-term development of these destinations: basics, such as sewerage systems, water systems, waste management, and as well as the introduction of digitalization in the operations of tourism communities all over the country which is why, shortly, we are launching a Tourist Life Cycle App called “Travel Philippines” that will give opportunities for our tourists to be connected directly to our tourism destinations,” she said.  

“We foresee that through the approach of our President in tourism development, we would be able to ensure sustainable development in our award-winning Philippine destinations, expand development across the countryside towards the areas of Mindanao and other parts of northern Philippines, add more to our UNWTO sustainable tourism observatories, as well as our award-winning tourism villages, and herald to the world the best of the Filipino identity, the Filipino culture, and all the reasons to love the Philippines,” the tourism chief also stressed.  

Filipino tourism frontline workers at the core of the industry  

Additionally, the Secretary said that as the country envisions itself as becoming a tourism powerhouse in Asia, the Filipino frontline workers remain at the core of the industry, thus, her bold prospects are, primarily for the industry employability five years from now.  

“The Philippines envisions itself becoming the tourism powerhouse in Asia. A few years down the road, by 2028, we foresee that tourism would have been able to employ a total of over 34 million Filipinos in the country. After all, the end all and be all of the development of our tourism industry must be for the benefit of our countrymen,” she said. 

She also noted during the panel the importance of the Philippines’ whole-of-nation approach toward tourism development by also capitalizing on other aspects of tourism equally. 

“With our President’s whole-of-nation approach towards tourism development, with an eye for sustainability, we envision that this will allow the Philippines to occupy a primary position in Asia, especially considering that what we wish to do is not only to further develop our nature and beach destinations–we are, after all, currently the world’s leading beach and dive destination– but also to approach a multidimensional tourism component to our development. That means capitalizing well on the story of the Philippines, our heritage, our culture, and the work of our indigenous peoples and, overall, it is this comprehensive approach towards tourism development that we foresee would allow our country to have a sustainable tourism development in time to come,” she said.  

The GTEF is a leading international exchange platform designed to promote the sustainable development of the global tourism sector. This edition is hosted by the Secretariat of Economy and Finance of the Government of Macao Special Administrative Region (GSEF), in collaboration with the UNWTO, and co-organized by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) and the China Chamber of Tourism (CCT), and coordinated by the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre (GTERC). 

The panel discussion titled “Sustainability in Focus: Navigating the Future of Tourism in Asia” was moderated by Mr. Xu Jing from China, Vice Chairman of the Global Tourism Economy Research Center and Former Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific of World Tourism Organization, attended as well by Mr. Harry Hwang, Director of the UNWTO Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific; Ms. Maria Helena De Senna Fernandes, Director of Macao Government Tourism Office; Mr. Priantha Fernando, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority; and His Excellency Hussain Niyaaz, Ambassador of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of Economic Development Cooperation of the Maldives. 

Setting the global tourism stage 

To recall, under the leadership of Secretary Frasco, the Philippines was elected as Vice President of the UNWTO 25th General Assembly, and the Chairman of the Commission of East Asia and the Pacific in a ceremony in Cambodia last June–a feat last achieved by the country more than decades ago. 

As chair, the Philippines will host the Joint Commission Meeting of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, and the Commission for South Asia in 2024. The event is expected to gather some 300 delegates from across the globe. 

“Secretary Garcia Christina, the UNWTO is extremely honored and delighted for having the Philippines as our chair for the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific. And of course, we are very much looking forward to our joint commission meeting next year in Cebu, the Philippines. Thank you very much for being with us today,” said Mr. Hwang.  


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